Poor quality sleep can increase the risk of depression

By Dr. David Goldstein

On Nov. 1, we all set our clocks back an hour to mark the end of Daylight Saving Time. Sunrise and sunset is now about an hour earlier, and it is brighter in the morning for our daily commutes to work.

How time changes actually affect you depends on your own personal health, sleep habits and lifestyle. In general,“losing” an hour in the spring is more difficult to adjust to than “gaining” an hour in the fall. It is similar to airplane travel; traveling east we lose time.An “earlier” bedtime may cause difficulty falling asleep and increased wakefulness during the early part of the night. Going west, we fall asleep easily but may have a difficult time waking.

There’s no doubt that sleep difficulties affect our overall health and wellbeing. Obstructive sleep apnea, for example, is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.A chronic disorder that affects an estimated 25 million Americans, obstructive sleep apnea happens when you experience pauses in breathing or when you develop shallow breaths while you are asleep.These pauses may occur many times during the night.

When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day.

A recent study in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reports that people with sleep apnea are at an increased risk for depression. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy may ease their depression, the new study suggests.

The study followed men and women who were newly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Nearly 73 percent had depression when the study began.The severity of the apnea influences the degree of the depression.

However, after three months, only 4 percent of the 228 apnea patients who used CPAP for an average of at least five hours a night still had clinically significant symptoms of depression.

People with symptoms of depression should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea by looking for complaints of snoring, breathing pauses while sleeping, or daytime sleepiness.

Untreated sleep apnea also increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If diagnosed, management of obstructive sleep apnea, including CPAP therapy, has been proven to successfully treat the disorder in many people.

Dr. David Goldstein is medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center’s Old Bridge location. The state-of-the-art diagnostic center provides the highest quality care for adults and children under the direction of board-certified sleep physicians. To schedule a consultation, call 732-360-4255, or take the sleep quiz at www.rbmc.org/sleep-center/ to see if you could benefit from a sleep study.